CBS Corp. is expected to very soon announce a deal to bring a standalone version of Showtime to Apple TV, Variety reports. The move to provide a broadband-only option for accessing Showtime content follows the HBO Now roll out to Apple TV back in April, although the pricing and official name for Showtime’s new service is still unclear. Apple is an exclusive partner for HBO Now’s $15-a-month standalone service for the time being, but industry sources say CBS will be expanding its independent Showtime offering to other partners shortly after announcing its deal with Apple.
A new support document confirms the long-standing rumor that Apple TVs (third-generation or later) will allow users to control HomeKit devices using Siri even when they’re away from home. Devices running iOS 8.1 or later will be able to control HomeKit devices locally after downloading an app for each family of devices and entering a unique HomeKit code. After setup, Siri will be able to control the HomeKit products inside the house, but the iOS device may need to be unlocked when giving commands to certain products. For Siri to control a user’s home remotely, the same Apple ID will have to be logged in on the user’s iOS device and an Apple TV running software version 7.0 or later. For HomeKit devices to be grouped, they’ll need to be configured through the same third-party app before Siri can control them as a unit. The document includes a link to HomeKit compatible products and instructions for reconfiguring your HomeKit settings if you move or lose the device you use for control. Notably, Siri can’t be used to unlock your door, presumably for safety purposes.
Apple has added another new channel, NatGeo TV, to Apple TV today. As one might surmise, NatGeo TV is a National Geographic channel for Apple’s set-top box. The channel includes a number of clips and shows — some episodes require cable authentication, but at first glance, the channel appears to offer more free content than many other “cable channels” on Apple TV. Apple TV users will also notice the Apple Events channel has returned to Apple TV’s main menu, in advance of next Monday’s Apple WWDC keynote.
Apple won’t be unveiling its subscription TV service next week at WWDC, Re/code reports. The company wanted to launch the new service in early fall to coincide with the new broadcast TV season, but necessary licensing deals aren’t yet finalized, according to several people with knowledge of the situation. Apple wants to provide customers in cities around the U.S. with local broadcast programming to set its service apart from those already available from Dish and Sony, but obtaining the rights to local shows and developing the technology to deliver them has proven time-consuming. CBS CEO Les Moonves has indicated his network will likely sign with Apple, but money is still a sticking point. Industry executives predict Apple’s TV service won’t launch until late this year or in 2016.
Apple is endeavoring to include access to programming from local TV stations as part of its new streaming television service, Re/Code reports; a move which may delay the launch that was originally expected to occur later this year. The move would help to significantly distinguish Apple’s streaming televisions offering from rival companies, most of which only offer major network programming and in some cases local programming in select major cities. Industry executives who are familiar with Apple’s plans have revealed that the company is looking to provide much more widespread access to programming from local broadcast stations in “cities around the U.S.” However, the move is said to have complicated negotiations with networks due to the varied ownership, affiliate, and franchise system in place between broadcasters and local stations.
The report notes that past attempts to secure rights for showing local programming and commercials can be time consuming, citing the example of ABC’s two-year quest to get the rights to show live programming in its Watch ABC app, with the resultant programming still limited to viewers in only eight cities. Infrastructure concerns are also noted, with many local affiliates not presently having the necessary streaming capabilities in place. Industry executives have also noted that they “don’t believe Apple has signed any TV programmers up” for the new service, making an announcement at this year’s WWDC very unlikely. Despite these hurdles, TV executives who are in talks with Apple are reportedly optimistic that the service will eventually launch, with money being the most significant hurdle, rather than technical limitations.
Apple shelved its plans to produce a television set “more than a year ago,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The idea was abandoned “after nearly a decade of research.” Investor Carl Icahn said he expects to see an ultra-high-definition TV coming from Apple in 2016, but people familiar with the matter said Apple executives pulled the plug on a TV project after finding little in the way of breakthrough features to add to a product that would be entering an already crowded and competitive market. An ultra-high-definition screen and video calling features didn’t meet Apple’s standards for entering a new product area, where Apple typically likes to be able to provide innovative technology and easier-to-use software. While both Steve Jobs and current CEO Tim Cook have expressed an interest in TV, Apple’s focus has turned to redesigning the Apple TV and creating its own cable TV streaming service.
Apple is currently working on a “Find my Watch” feature for Apple Watch, according to a 9to5Mac report. The feature would allow users to track the location of a Watch, or lock or swipe it remotely. It’s been noted recently that as it currently stands, Apple Watch lacks any meaningful anti-theft features. Reportedly, Apple will use “smart leashing” to implement Find my Watch — the Watch will send a signal to “establish its location native to the iPhone.” The report notes these features “could be farther off than others in development.” Some other future Apple Watch features noted in the report include a number of health and fitness additions — a blood pressure monitor and sleep tracking seem closest — and third-party watch face widgets known, strangely, as “Complications.” A new Watch OS could include Twitter Complications.
The report also has a few Apple TV details. Internal next-gen Apple TV prototypes are roughly “twice as large” as the current Apple TV, with the finished product expected to be thinner than the current set-top box. Also, a new version of XCode will include a “TVKit” SDK, which will allow developers to build third-party Apple TV apps. It’s still expected that Apple will debut the new Apple TV next month.
WWE Network comes to Apple TV in UK, Ireland; Australia, Japan and Scandinavia also get new channels
The WWE Network is now available to Apple TV users in the United Kingdom and Ireland. WWE’s channel requires a subscription to access pay-per-view content and the network’s on demand library. WWE Network launched on Apple TV in the U.S. last year. Bandai appeared yesterday on Apple TVs in Japan and Australian users picked up Stan, a channel with localized movies, TV shows and children’s programming. Users in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark now have access to Viaplay, which features local sports content, movies and TV shows. U.S. and Canadian users received new channels last week. [via 9to5 Mac]
In addition to the CBS Sports and USA Now channels added to the Apple TV in the U.S., Canadian users are getting a nice bonus with the addition of Bell’s CraveTV and Rogers and Shaw’s Shomi streaming TV services. Similar to Hulu in the U.S., CraveTV and Shomi are designed to provide domestic alternatives to Netflix, albeit with a stronger focus on television content than movies. CraveTV is available to existing Bell subscribers for an additional $4/month while Shomi charges $9/month for non-Rogers and Shaw subscribers while including the service for free in most cable TV and Internet packages. Apple TV is one of the first third-party set-top boxes to get support for either of the new services; CraveTV was previously only available on Bell’s own Fibe receivers, while Shomi has up until now been limited to Rogers/Shaw cable boxes and the Xbox. Both services also continue to provide web-based playback and iOS apps for portable device playback.
Apple TV has gained two more channels today, as CBS Sports and USA Now have been added to the main menu. CBS Sports offers free clips from a number of shows — mostly sports discussion — which can be sorted by show or sport. USA Now also offers free clips from shows on the USA Network, but cable authentication is required to view full episodes. These two new channels follow another recent addition, NBC Sports Live Extra, which debuted last week.
The Apple TV remote is getting a touchpad when Apple debuts the new Apple TV this summer, The New York Times reports. An employee briefed on the product said the remote will have two physical buttons and the touchpad, which will be used for scrolling. The new remote will also be thicker than the previous model. Apple declined comment.
Google has announced that the YouTube app will cease to function starting in May for iOS devices running an OS older than iOS 7 — this likely refers to the older Apple-developed YouTube app that was discontinued in iOS 6. The change also impacts second-generation and older Apple TV units, which won’t be able to access YouTube starting in May unless Apple chooses to provide a software update for the older model. Users of the YouTube app on these older devices are already seeing a video notifying them of the change, but the app is still functional for now. In early May, users will only see the notification video, and will be unable to access any video content through the app. Google’s support page has directed users of older iOS versions to visit YouTube’s mobile site to view videos. Notably, Google’s official YouTube app for iOS remains listed as compatible with “iOS 6.0 or later”, so it’s unclear why iOS 6 users may be unable to access YouTube unless Google simply plans to drop iOS 6 support in the native iOS app.
Disney is putting pressure on Apple to carry more Disney-owned channels on its upcoming streaming television service, a new report from The Street reveals. The two companies are reportedly in negotiations regarding what content will be carried on the new service, expected to debut as early as this fall, with the issue of how many Disney channels Apple will be required to carry apparently forming a key point in the discussions. The report cites people with knowledge of the talks who have revealed that Disney is pushing Apple to take most — if not all — of its channels, including Disney, ESPN, and several spinoff channels, while Apple is trying to limit the amount of content carried in order to keep the price of its service down. Apple reportedly is hoping to formally announce the service in June, along with a list of content partners, with the service expected to be priced at $30-$40 per month for a 25-channel offering.
The much-anticipated HBO Now channel has been added to Apple TV. While the streaming standalone service costs $15 a month, a 30-day free trial is currently being offered. HBO Now iPhone and iPad apps should be appearing in the very near future.
Update: The HBO Now iOS app has also launched.
Apple’s next Apple TV won’t support 4K video streams when it hits store shelves later this year, Buzzfeed reports. With limited 4K programming available and few consumers with 4K-capable TVs or Internet connections, Apple isn’t putting effort into meeting the increased requirements of streaming 4K video until the higher resolution format becomes more commonplace. “4K is great, but it’s still in its infancy,” said one source described as “familiar with Apple’s thinking.” Apple declined to comment.
Apple has added CNNgo to its list of Apple TV channels, just a day after adding a trio of channels to the set-top box. CNNgo offers live news coverage, shows, and recorded news clips. While live coverage and CNN programming require cable authentication, the news clips are free for all to access.
Apple has released its fourth beta of iOS 8.3 to registered developers; it’s the second beta in the new iOS Public Beta program. This latest beta features a build number of 12F61 and details few changes in the release notes from the prior beta, with minor issues related to CarPlay, WatchKit, Spotlight and UIKit.
As with the third beta released earlier this month, this latest update is once again accompanied by a new beta build of the Apple TV Software, although it is unclear at this point what has changed in that particular version as Apple TV betas are generally not accompanied by release notes.
This morning Apple TV added channels from Tastemade, TED, and Young Hollywood. Tastemade features food and travel videos, Young Hollywood delivers celebrity content and TED, of course, provides access to TED Talks.
After nearly two years of rumors and speculation on Apple’s plans for its next set-top box, a new report from BuzzFeed indicates that the company plans to debut a revamped Apple TV at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Citing sources familiar with the company’s plans, the report suggests that Apple will choose to show the device off at WWDC along with a long-anticipated App Store for the living room screen, with a software development kit that will help developers get started on building the necessary apps. The new Apple TV is expected to be a “significant overhaul” of the device to make it stand out from a field that has since been populated with many competitors. The report suggests that the new device will sport some variant of Apple’s latest A8 CPU, increased on-board storage to support the App Store, and integration of Siri voice control. The existing Apple TV hasn’t been updated since a minor revision was made to the 2012-era third-generation Apple TV in March 2013.
Apple is negotiating to add the Viacom and Discovery families of networks to its growing Apple TV subscription service, The Wall Street Journal reports. Adding any of Viacom’s MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon networks or Discovery’s Animal Planet, TLC and Discovery Channel would go a long way toward turning Apple’s TV package into one of the more robust alternatives to standard cable and could help justify a price tag that’s been estimated between $25 to $40. Major networks ABC, CBS and Fox are also in talks to anchor the subscription service, allowing Apple to undercut other discounted bundles like Dish Network’s $20 a month streaming service, which includes popular cable channels but no networks. NBC is still working on a dedicated app for Apple TV after being shut out of negotiations for inclusion in Apple’s subscription service, but that app will require a cable subscription to function.